Bangor RFC Notes: I XV 24 v Portadown RFC I XV 26 – REPORT

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150x150-CDSPortadown snatch victory in league opener
by Roger Corbett

In an entertaining but error-strewn game between last year’s QL1 and QL2 winners, Portadown gained a 24-26 victory against a Bangor side that will be disappointed not to have secured the win, but pleased to have taken 2 bonus points from the defeat.
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With a number of key players missing through injury or unavailability, Bangor started the game with a unfamiliar line-up. However, with some new faces making their league debut, expectations were high that Bangor would continue the outstanding home form they displayed last season. For their part, the big men from Portadown were obviously hoping to avenge their defeat in the Towns Cup when they last visited Upritchard Park.

Portadown got the game underway with the advantage of a stiff breeze blowing straight down the pitch. This, added to the strength and weight of their pack, resulted in Bangor being pinned down in their own half for the opening period. Despite adapting well in the scrums, Bangor were penalised after 8 minutes for wheeling. With the successful kick, Portadown opened the scoring to lead by 0-3.

The wind made kicking and judging the results difficult. This was evident when a clearance kick downfield by Bangor hung in the air, allowing Mark Widdowson to collect and start off down the left hand wing. Although he looked to have the better of the defender ahead of him, he checked before passing inside to Davy Charles in support. Despite a strong run, Charles was stopped short of the line, but from the resulting breakdown, Portadown were penalised for hands in the ruck. Jason Morgan kicked to touch and from the resulting lineout, Richard Corbett won the ball, a driving maul was formed before Jamie Clegg touched down for a well worked try. Morgan’s conversion attempt was blown wide, but Bangor had now moved into the lead to 5-3.

From the restart, Bangor regained possession and Stephen Addy started off on a strong run down the right wing. However, he was tackled and quickly robbed of the ball. The Portadown player couldn’t believe his luck and jogged over for a soft try in the left hand corner. Although the kick was missed, Portadown had cancelled out Bangor’s earlier try and led by 5-8.

The swirling wind played a part in the next score. Morgan’s clearance kick looked to be going into touch, but swung back into play. Running straight back at Bangor, the Portadown players shrugged off some poor tackling to make for the line. However, they may consider themselves fortunate that a slight fumble before touching down in was not seen by the referee. This time the kick was successful and the visitors’ lead had grown to 5-15 with just over a quarter of the game gone.

With just 7 minutes of play remaining, scrum half Danny Diamond played a clever kick behind the Portadown line. Some quick passing got the ball to Davy Charles who sprinted for the line. With the line in sight, he unselfishly passed outside to Mark Widdowson who made the last few metres to score on the left hand side. Morgan’s conversion looked to have made it, but again it hung in the air before bouncing off the crossbar, making the score now 10-15.

A few minutes later, Portadown were reduced to 14 men after their number 4 was yellow carded for the use of his elbow, but there wasn’t enough time left in the first half to capitalise on this.

As the teams turned around at half time, it was hoped that the wind would help Bangor recoup the 5 point deficit. However, their cause wasn’t helped when Paddy Dornan was yellow carded after just 6 minutes for persistent penalty infringements.

The half time break had obviously helped Portadown as they pressed forward just as they had done at the start of the first half. Although pinned down close to their line, Bangor defended well, eventually turning over a Portadown attack. However, they were then guilty of trying to run the ball from their own line rather than punt it downfield, especially as they now had the wind at their backs. At the ensuing breakdown, Bangor then conceded a penalty right in front of their posts. The simple kick was converted, extending Portadown’s lead to 10-18.

Obviously angry with themselves, Bangor came right back from the restart, with Richard Corbett starting off on a charge before off-loading to Davy Charles and then Stephen Addy. The Portadown defence held firm, but Bangor were now pushing hard.

Portadown rallied and started to press forward again, but a loose pass in their backline was intercepted by Jason Morgan who ran from his own twenty two, outpacing the back-pedalling defence, to touch down under the Portadown posts for a converted try. There was now only one point between the sides at 17-18.

Bangor continued their good use of the chip through, this time by Jamie Clegg, who forced the Portadown defence to clear to touch just a few metres from their own line. Bangor won the lineout, but Portadown were forced to concede penalties in their desperation to defend. Eventually Bangor got a good drive close to the line, resulting in James Henly touching down for a try to the right of the posts. Morgan’s kick was good, putting Bangor ahead again by 24-18, with 13 minutes remaining.

Just 5 minutes later, Portadown produced the first flowing backline move of the game. From a lineout on the right, they moved the ball quickly across the width of the pitch for their winger to score in the left hand corner. The kick was missed, resulting in Bangor’s lead being just 24-23.

The decisive moment of the game came just 3 minutes later. With Portadown mounting another attack inside Bangor’s twenty two, Paddy Dornan was guilty of committing another ruck infringement, resulting in his second yellow card which duly meant a red card and a kickable penalty for the opposition. The simple kick was successful, putting Portadown ahead again by 2 points.

The final 5 minutes were frenetic, with Bangor pulling out all the stops. Once again, Portadown were fortunate to avoid being penalised for a clumsy trip on Mark Widdowson, but hung on to the final whistle where their relief of winning was obvious. Unfortunately the win came at a cost with the news that their influential centre suffered a broken arm and will be out of action for some time. We wish him a full recovery in due course.

Bangor will no doubt be disappointed to have lost this game, but in the cold light of day can take comfort in the knowledge that (a) they made some basic mistakes, (b) they have 2 weeks in which to iron out these mistakes, and (c) they came away with 2 valuable bonus points against one of the league’s strongest teams. Next week the focus turns to the newly promoted 2nds who start their league campaign away to Lisburn 2nds.

Bangor side: P Dornan, A Jackson, J Harrison, F Black, R Corbett, J Henly, G Coughey, J Clegg (c), D Diamond, J Morgan, M Widdowson, M Weir, M Aspley, S Addy, D Charles

Subs: P Nicol, R Meeke

Bangor scores: J Clegg (1T), M Widdowson (1T), J Morgan (1T, 2C), J Henly (1T)

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